Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Malani Selvaraj's Reflection

What is my understanding of Singapore’s history before the visit to the museum and the trail?
I enjoyed doing history during my secondary school days. But I had little knowledge about it. I am aware of history of Singapore after Raffles landed and am aware of the political issues during 1960s. I know that there has been effort made to preserve our history but so far have not paid close attention to any of these. I know that some places in Singapore have been named after the British colonials. I have visited little India many times and aware of places there. I had an understanding that most Indians lived at little India in the past. This was indicated in the town plan that was drawn up by Raffles and that is why it is a focal point for Indians. I was also aware that animals were reared in this area and that is why Buffalo road is located at little India.
What did I learn about Singapore’s past on the trail?
This trail was an eye opener for me. I have been to Little India ever since I was young. I thought I knew the place well but realised that there were many places that I was not aware of. Usually I go there for shopping but there was never once I saw the information board around the historical buildings and temples in little India. During this trail, I learnt many things about how people lived in this region and what they did for living. I realised that “tekka” is not a Tamil word at all! It is a Hokkien word which meant bamboo clamps. As there were many bamboos around the rochor canal, the building was named “tekka” market.  During the trail a lot of places started making sense to me. For example, the Chinese villa, I had admired the colours of the building when I walked pass it every single time but I had never made the effort to find out why the building was distinctive among the other buildings there. Now I realise that it was built by Tang Teng Niah for his wife. I learnt that mostly every road name at little India had a story behind it or was named after some colonial personnel. The trip to little India made me realize that not only Indian community patronize the place but the other races too. I could see a variety of worship places, Chinese temple, church, mosque, Indian temples, Buddhist temple and many more. The Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya temple fascinated me. I was surprised to know that it was a safe haven during the World War II In which most people took refuge.
What were some of the new discoveries that I made on the trail?

As I mentioned earlier, there were many places that I was never aware of. Such examples would be the Church of the True Light, Abdul Gaffoor Mosque and Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple. I realised that all the different religion worship places were close together. The road names started making sense to me after reading the information boards which I never knew they existed. The roads were named after colonial officials. Example, Hasting road named after Warren Hastings and Campbell lane named after Sir Colin Campbell. I always thought Little India is a place closely linked to Indians, but after this trail I realised that other races do patronise this area for worship and other activities. Another interesting discovery I made was the two tow plagues at the little India arcade. I tried to read the carvings which were in Tamil but unable to because it was destroyed a bit over the years. Most words were unclear. The animal head above the carving symbolized the activities at little India in the olden days.

Has enough been done to preserve Singapore’s past? What could have been done better?
I feel that there have been efforts made to preserve Singapore’s past but I feel it is not sufficient. Being a person who patronise the place often, I was not able to identify the information board along the roads. During our trip we made some attempt to ask the shop owners if they knew what the road names meant. Most of them were not able to answer our questions. I feel that knowing the facts of our past is as important as preserving the places. I feel these owners have to be aware of the names and historical monuments along little India. This would be useful for both tourist and locals to know about our history. There could have been more places like the cultural centre in the little India arcade which had some pictures of the past.  Besides the information boards there could have been more pictures and details stating the life in the past at Little India. This would give a clearer understanding of the past for the younger generation.
How has the trail helped me in my understanding of Singapore’s history and History as a discipline?
I was able to relate some of the things that I had learnt in History. I could understand why some of the street names were named after British colonials but I was wondering why only selected colonial names were used. The trail helped me see and relate to the national monuments which I had only read them in my history books.
How could what I experienced be translated into my future classrooms?
This was a good experience for me. I would like to share some information about these places with my future students and get them to explore the places on their own. I would allow them to find out the meaning of the road names and get them to explain why they were named in that way. This would allow them to relate and understand to what they have learnt in their textbooks. I realise that students would be more interested to learn history when they have personal encounter with the surviving evidence that we have as national monuments.

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